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Empire Life is latest insurer to end sales-based travel incentive conferences

By Matt Bell | May 24 2016 01:30PM

San Diego

Empire Life has announced that its 2018 San Diego travel conference will be its last sales-based incentive event. Speaking exclusively to The Insurance and Investment Journal, Paul Holba, Empire Life’s vice president of retail distribution, says the insurer will instead offer new conferences similar to a mutual fund conference.

“We will focus on education, so the plan will be to hold events, similar to a mutual fund conference, where advisors will pay their own way and we will look at holding an educational event around that,” says Holba.

The 2018 San Diego Conference will be the last sales incentive conference where advisors are invited based on their level of business, and hotel/travel expenses are paid by Empire Life. This conference will see Empire Life’s top 100 advisors and their top 15 MGAs gather in one place.

New Empire Partners Program

Holba says the plan is to replace the current travel incentives with the new “Empire Partners Program.”

“The big difference is the way people go there. We have always had a big focus on education at our conferences, but it has been based on production. Going forward it won’t be based on levels of production, but on people’s interest in spending their own dollars to be there,” says Holba.

The new program will offer a mix of advisor-pay and Empire-pay education events. Holba says there will still be caps on how many people can attend the conferences, despite them being open to more people.

“What we find with conferences is the larger they get, the less interactive they are. The more we can have people contributing, get people asking questions and have the opportunity to learn from their colleagues, the better. We will not look to have them grow any larger, but to keep them to the same size as they are now or smaller,” Holba says.

The Latest to follow CLHIA recommendations

With this move, Empire life becomes the latest player to announce an end to their sales based travel conferences. The decision comes after Great West/ Canada Life, Manulife, RBC Insurance and Desjardins Insurance all announced, in the past couple months, an end to their conferences over the next few years.

The trend started after the CLHIA released a report, in late February, on insurance distribution, which says these conferences could give the perception of a conflict of interest. Commenting on the CLHIA’s position, Holba said, “I agree with that (CLHIA) statement… Because we should be doing the right thing for our customers, we should be making sure they have the product most appropriate for them and not one that gets an advisor to a conference,” says Holba.  

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